Job interviews are already stressful; trying to showcase your skills, communicate effectively and explain why you’re the best candidate for the job all while maintaining your cool takes a lot out of you. And talking about previous employers can be the cause of some added stress.

One of the first questions that’s going to be asked in an interview is what happened with your last employer: Why did you leave the position and what were the circumstances? It’s important to have a positive, non-confrontational statement about what happened. You also want to go ahead and address any concerns the interviewer might have so they don’t pop up later in the interview.

Your answer should be:

  • Brief
  • Honest
  • Based on facts rather than opinion


It’s a question that’s dreaded by many but you must give an answer—and it should get to the point. Dragging it out will only make it look like you’re trying to hide something. It should consist of a brief statement of events that have affected the company and that led up to your release. Sometimes the answer is straightforward and appears to be no fault of the employee: layoffs, company bankruptcy or restructuring. Other situations—for example, if you were let go—may be more difficult to explain, but say what you have to say and then move on, without dwelling on the past.

Your answer should also be honest—an important point to remember if you were at fault. If you were asked to leave, you want to make sure that you do mention this, as a potential employer will certainly find out anyway.

Last but not least, your answer should be free of emotions. That is, it should be based on facts, not opinions. If possible, offer your interviewer the opportunity to speak to someone at your former place of employment. Providing a third party to speak on your behalf can make the interviewer more confident in you.

A sample statement for leaving could be: “My regional Sales Director position was eliminated as a result of the downsizing of the Sales Department. Eight positions were eliminated, including mine. There were no other jobs available and the company provided me with a severance package. That is why I’m looking for a new position.”

Finally, even if your departure from your last organization may have been unexpected, you want to make clear that you have a plan for your next job and deliberately chose this organization for a reason.